According to many market research reports for online purchasing, social media may limit direct sales, with some studies finding only a rate of 1-5 per cent of ecommerce sales are directly attributed to selling through social media. But don’t be fooled: Social media marketing has an enormous role to play in supplementing and triggering the sales process.
While it may be true that social media’s bearing on direct sales may be limited, its influence on the customer journey through product awareness, consideration and intent can’t be denied. Social media, put simply, is a powerful tool for influencing the purchase process.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are strong influencers of consumer purchase decisions…
For starters here are some social media stats
- 78 per cent of consumers are likely to consider online purchasing based on referrals via social media.
- 40 per cent of social media users have purchased after liking or sharing an item on Facebook or Twitter; 80 per cent of these purchases occur within three weeks of the instigation of the social activity.
- More than 40 per cent of purchases of items “happened upon” and triggered by social media are impulse purchases.
- Social media channels are powerful tools for product discovery and identification of purchase locations.
- Twitter highly influences technology and electronics purchases; 90 per cent of social media users watch online videos about the tech products they purchase.
- Facebook is a key influencer of fashion and beauty purchases, as well as books.
- Almost 40 per cent of new mothers will purchase from brands that other women follow and favourably respond to on Facebook.
Why do consumers purchase?
People buy for two main reasons:
- To solve a problem or fill a need – to ultimately avoid loss or pain.
- For pleasure – including personal enjoyment and maintaining an image.
Those best at modern marketing practices will use social media to influence consumer buying decisions by appealing to either (or both) of these reasons for buying. By demonstrating how a brand’s product or service will fill a need, solve a problem, give pleasure or maintain a desired image, consumers will sit up and take notice. When the marketers are very clever, the consumer will decide they can’t live without (or don’t want to live without) what is being sold, and will take positive steps to close the deal.
The psychology of buying and online purchasing is both a science and an art. Buyers make purchases based on emotion, whether they are conscious of this fact or not. The hemispheres of the brain work together to influence decision-making; the intuitive and subjective right brain, along with the analytical and logical left brain. Emotions, for example, are drivers of impulse purchases. By understanding why people buy, as a marketer you can apply this knowledge to social media.
Why do consumers love social media?
Consumers use social media for an array of reasons; from a consumer perspective, social media marketing (link to blog on Social media for B2B marketing from this month) is incredibly valuable and consumers look to social channels and follow their favourite brands to educate themselves regarding products and services; keep up with the latest trends; leverage promotions; join communities of likeminded fans of favoured brands; provide feedback; link to websites and online stores to complete purchases; and make service or product inquiries and complaints.
Via social media, brands can reach and capture a wide and almost infinite global audience. It is a goldmine for consumers, allowing them to share product information and make better-informed decisions about their buying activities. It allows consumers to keep up with the latest trends, gain feedback on online purchasing considerations, and make informed decisions when it comes to completing their purchase. A vast majority of consumers who also use social media admit to being influenced by the social online activities of their favourite brands, as well as the recommendations and opinions of family, friends, and colleagues.
Vendors need to establish authority and trust in the consumer, and there is no more effective way to do so than via social media channels. Additionally, the influence of the purchasing practices of friends and family, and their opinions, can’t be overstated for many consumers. Human beings, to a very large extent, have a crowd (or “sheep”) mentality; a majority of people will follow the pack rather than forge their own path. This is why branding works so effectively. If a consumer sees their peers (or the focus of their aspiration) favour a particular brand or product, they too will frequently be convinced to follow suit and put their cash on the table. Social media channels are the biggest showcase of what our peers love and how they live.
What are the benefits of selling via social media?
- Promotion of brand awareness – potentially growing a fan base and customer pool exponentially.
- Enhanced customer loyalty by building a more personal relationship between vendor and consumer.
- Overcoming reluctance of customer to complete the sales process – word of mouth is much more powerful than traditional advertising.
- Supporting and enhancing the results of search engine optimisation (SEO) activities.
- Provision of insights into marketing considerations.
How to use social media to influence consumers to purchase
Social media is a big influencer of online purchasing decisions, offering product discovery and brand awareness, additional product information, identification of purchase location, product recommendations, purchase reminders and sale or product alerts.
By using social media effectively, you can grow your business and boost your bottom line. To influence consumer decisions to your benefit:
- Converse and engage on a personal level with your existing customers and followers. Offer sincerity and create an emotional connection with your audience.
- Ensure no more than 20 per cent of your social content is a direct sales pitch.
- Improve your Facebook page by customising it for your brand, creating content that incorporates images, videos and links to blogs, and information that is appealing and of value to your followers. Create events, contests, free giveaways and other incentives. Add buttons to your website so customers and visitors can like or follow your social profile without leaving your website.
- Be present and responsive – check your profile for time-sensitive comments, messages and feedback on at least a daily basis. Reply calmly to negative feedback and address issues promptly as they arise.
- Encourage reviews and reward interaction and sharing.
- Listen to and observe your audience (link to blog on Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media Engagament) and their activity on your profile – and deliver more of what they want.
- Track and measure the outcomes of your social media campaign.
While selling through social media is not a direct transaction in most cases, the influence of social media on consumer activity is profound. Having a clear and well-planned social media strategy is the key to positioning your brand at the top of the ever-growing pack, whatever your niche is. When used properly, the right social media channel can be a genuine treasure trove for your business.
If want to step up your social media efforts this year, now is the perfect time to get your social media strategy together. Intimate knowledge of social media advertising trends results in a successful social media marketing strategy. This translates to a broader advertising reach, exponential growth in your customer base, higher consumer interest, interaction and satisfaction, and, ultimately, greater profits for your business.
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